In mid-May I was diagnosed with cancer. What I thought was a recurrence of Bell’s Palsy turned out to be a tumor growing on my salivary gland, which compromised my facial nerve.
Within a matter of weeks, I was checking into Emory University Hospital in Midtown for an eight-hour surgery to remove the tumor, lymph nodes, and a nerve graft to, eventually, allow me to smile again.
When I came out of the surgery, I was stunned by the giant incision running down my neck and across my throat. It looked like my head had been cut off and sewn back on – think Frankenstein minus the bolts. But the aesthetics were secondary to the sobering fact of my diagnosis: the rare, aggressive adenoid cystic carcinoma.
My Emory team ruled out chemotherapy, since there’s very little evidence that it works on this kind of cancer. So, I’m about to begin six weeks of radiation at the Emory Proton Therapy Center. Unfortunately, radiation treatment is usually just a band-aid. Adenoid cystic carcinoma has a high rate of recurrence and when it does, it’s fatal.
Of course, it might be 10 or 20 years before it recurs. Or it could be five. Barring a heart attack, car accident, or plane crash, I’ll likely die of this cancer sometime in the future.
Or maybe not. As my fantastic Emory team has said, there are new therapies and drugs in development. By the time I have a recurrence, the treatment might extend my life.
I decided at diagnosis that I wasn’t going to dwell on it. There’s too much writing, traveling, and fun still to be had. I’m giving myself permission to have a whopper of a mid-life crisis; I might even start a bucket list.
The week before my surgery, I closed on my condo in Midtown. Moving in after the surgery was a fresh hell, but I’m here and happy in my new nest. Being able to walk a block or two to everything I need – supermarket, drug store, restaurants, MARTA – is even better than living on the BeltLine. Although, I can walk pretty easily to the Eastside Trail if the mood hits.
I’m also in walking distance to the Proton Center, not that I’m eager to make that trek, but at least it’s convenient. A couple of weeks ago, I walked over and had a mold made of my face for the radiation mask. That’s the closest I want to get to mummification.
Between the doctor’s appointments, tests, and dealing with insurance, Atlanta Intown has kept me busy and focused. A huge thank you to the Springs Publishing team for coalescing around me and making my recovery less stressful. Digital editor Chad Radford filled in while I was in the hospital and recuperating after surgery, publisher Keith Pepper coordinated a food drop with the staff, and new Reporter Newspapers editor Amy Wenk helped with news coverage. Thanks, y’all!
I’ll close with a special shoutout to my longtime colleague, our real estate advertising executive Janet Porter. I’ve worked with Janet at Intown for almost 20 years and she’s become a trusted friend, too. Janet hung up her sales hat as we closed out this issue of Intown and is returning to her home state of Virginia for a new career adventure. Janet, it has been an absolute pleasure – even when we were having bitch and moan sessions. You helped build Intown into the successful publication it continues to be. You will be greatly missed by me and the clients. Good luck and godspeed.